Revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted not-for-profit organizations for special scrutiny if their names suggested they might lean to the right were indeed alarming. Then, in June, we learned that the IRS also gave special attention to not-for-profit organizations whose names suggested they might favor the political left.
We're left to conclude that the only thing truly alarming in this whole affair is that the leadership of the IRS didn't make clear, either before or after these targeted inquiries became public, that it wouldn't abide any organization that misrepresented its qualifications for tax-exempt status as a social welfare organization.
Going after groups that might be engaging in substantially partisan work is not in and of itself wrong. Going after groups suspected of that sort of deceit simply because they may be working against the party in power most certainly is, and if the IRS is guilty of that, there should be consequences. And that's the way things were portrayed when a House inquiry found that the IRS used word identifiers such as "tea party" and "patriot" to ferret out conservative organizations. Then the Associated Press uncovered an internal IRS document that showed screeners also looked for terms such as "Israel," ''progressive" and "occupy" in organizations' names.
The IRS should indeed be investigating whether organizations are misusing their nonprofit status for political purposes, and they should be doing it across the board. The federal tax collection agency ought to get busy and flag cheaters no matter what their persuasion.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-San Diego, who is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been trying to sniff out a scandal at the IRS for months. "This was a targeting of the president's political enemies, effectively," Issa said a few weeks ago. Turns out the only scandal is that political operatives from both parties have been establishing these 501(c)(4) organizations in order to hide the identities of donors. If Issa wants to head up an investigation with some juicy potential, that's where he ought to turn now.